Revenue from the sale of Wisconsin waterfowl stamps funded 19 waterfowl habitat projects in Wisconsin over the last year, as well as additional major projects in Canada benefitting migratory waterfowl that pass through the state, according to wildlife officials.

Hunters contributed $465,308 through their purchase of waterfowl stamps for these projects in the last license sales year. Thirty-six additional stamp-funded projects are either underway or are on the drawing board.

“Purchasing a state Waterfowl Stamp or Federal Migratory Game Bird Stamp is a great way to support waterfowl and wetland wildlife conservation here and in Canada,” said Jason Fleener, wetland ecologist in the Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Wildlife Management. “The funds not only benefit waterfowl populations for hunting purposes, they also benefit non-game migratory birds and other wildlife, and provide water quality improvements and flood control. Many birds that migrate through Wisconsin in spring and fall mate, nest and raise their broods on Canadian wetlands.”

Waterfowl hunters must purchase a Wisconsin Waterfowl Stamp along with their license to hunt waterfowl in Wisconsin. Non-hunters can also purchase the stamps without purchasing a hunting license and in this way also contribute to waterfowl and associated wildlife conservation efforts.

“People can purchase a stamp at any DNR license sales location. Hunting licenses indicate that a stamp fee has been paid. Hunters or stamp collectors desiring an actual stamp for collection purposes can get one at a DNR Service Center during open service hours, or contact the DNR at 1-888-WDNRINFo for more information.

Funds are shared between Wisconsin and Canada

Through the 2012 duck and goose hunting seasons, approximately 100,000 Wisconsin hunters will have purchased a state waterfowl stamp with a conservation patron license or a small game hunting license. Revenues from the waterfowl stamp sales are set aside in an account dedicated to habitat improvement and protection projects benefitting migratory game birds and associated wildlife.

Laws creating the account specify that 67 percent of the money be used in Wisconsin for developing, managing, preserving, restoring and maintaining wetland habitat and for producing waterfowl and ecologically related species of wildlife. The Wisconsin Waterfowl Association was a recent recipient of funds to restore wetlands on public and private lands.

“The utilization of duck stamp dollars for these projects is a great example of hunter’s’ hard-earned money going right back into the resource,” said Don Kirby, Wisconsin Waterfowl Association executive director. “These segregated funds, used for their intended purpose, produce a very real result, and impact, on the species that hunters pursue, as well as many others. Duck stamp funds are a key funding source for Wisconsin Waterfowl Association’s wetland restoration programs.”

Waterfowl-stamp-funded projects benefit local economies. Funds are often spent to hire local contractors to carry out construction work on dikes, ditch filling, scrapes and water control structure installation. Some funds also support DNR staff wages to plan and implement habitat projects. Other funds are spent on equipment operations, supplies, travel related to specific projects. Several waterfowl stamp projects receive cost-sharing from sources such as federal and private grants, tribes, and conservation organizations.

The remaining 33 percent of the stamp revenues must be spent in Canada for breeding habitat for waterfowl that migrate through Wisconsin.

The funds are awarded to non-profit organizations to carry out the work. Ducks Unlimited, Inc. has been a major recipient of these funds in recent years.

Ducks Unlimited has partnered with Ducks Unlimited Canada to carry out the work. In the last year, $173,501 from Wisconsin was sent to DU Canada to carry out waterfowl habitat restoration projects in the Prairie and Aspen Parkland regions of Manitoba. These regions are one of the most productive duck breeding areas on the continent, and most non-U.S. banded ducks harvested in Wisconsin originate in Manitoba.

These funds were leveraged by funds from other states and North American Wetlands Conservation Act funds for a total of $2,134,004 in the last year. An annual report from Ducks Unlimited Canada is sent to Wisconsin and other states that have contributed funding.

“Wetland protection and restoration programs are a primary focus of the funding,” said Canadian Dave Kostersky who manages funds received from Wisconsin and other states.

“DU Canada accomplishes this through conservation easements, land purchase and land cover programs with farmers in the highest duck density areas of the region. Most dabbling and diving duck species benefit including mallards, gadwall, blue-winged teal, canvasback, redhead and lesser scaup.”

Every two years, DNR wildlife managers, non-profit organizations and local units of government may write project proposals and apply for waterfowl stamp funding. Then, the Wisconsin Migratory Game Bird Committee reviews the project proposals and ranks them. Final selections for project funding are based on the rankings, project eligibility, and available funding in the biennial waterfowl stamp budget.

Projects in priority waterfowl production habitat areas, such as southeast and northwest Wisconsin are typically ranked higher. Projects designed to restore drained or degraded wetlands, and projects for major maintenance of wetland infrastructure also typically receive higher rankings. As most Wisconsin breeding ducks require upland habitat for nesting, projects that emphasize protection or management of grassland and prairie habitat are also critically important to Wisconsin duck populations.

Wisconsin projects highlighted

As Wisconsin waterfowl hunters and wildlife watchers head out to their favorite hunting and wildlife viewing areas, they may wish to take note of some habitat projects that have been completed over the years.

Wetland restorations on public and private lands

To date, three projects have been completed in Fond du Lac, Outagamie, and Rock counties by the Wisconsin Wildlife Association this year. These three restorations will result in nearly 80 acres of prime restored wetland habitat, with shallow seasonal waters creating ideal conditions for duck breeding activities, increased forage sources and resting places for migrating birds. Wetland restorations bring water levels to or above the soil surface on lands that have been drained as a result of past agricultural practices. The Wisconsin Wildlife Association will be combining waterfowl stamp funds with contributions from members and other funding sources on additional projects.

Duck Creek Dike Repair – Germania Wildlife Area, Marquette County

This project repaired a damaged low-head dike which drained the 15-acre Duck Creek impoundment. A local contractor was hired to repair the dike with work completed in fall 2011. The dike held strong against heavy rains in May 2012 which flooded the impoundment and spilled over the designed emergency rock spillway. Drought conditions in summer 2012 lowered water levels and parts of the impoundment remain dry today. The site is located on the northeast side of Germania Wildlife Area along Duck Creek Road.

Wolf River south pool renovation – Navarino Wildlife Area, Shawano County

This project was completed in December 2010. Local contractors were hired to renovate 0.9 miles of degraded dike along the Wolf River South Pool. The dike maintains a 132-acre impoundment. The renovation will ensure long-term conservation and human safety benefits. Managers will be able to control water levels to benefit waterfowl and other wildlife. The site is located just south of the Wolf River on the east side of Ashley Road.

Horicon Marsh cattail control – Horicon Wildlife Area, Dodge County

This is an ongoing project to treat and kill stands of invasive cattails mechanically and with aerial applications of herbicide. The project began in 2011 with the treatment of 123 acres of various cattail patches throughout the wildlife area. Additional treatments recently concluded in 2012. The goal is to kill cattails to open up pockets of water and regenerate native vegetation within the marsh for the benefit of breeding, brooding and migrating birds. Additional funding for the project has been supported through a grant with Ducks Unlimited. Treatment areas can be found along Main Ditch, Clark’s Ditch, Burnett Ditch, and other areas throughout the Wildlife Area south of Dike Road.

Crex pump house outlet tube replacement – Crex Meadows Wildlife Area, Burnett County

Recently, a metal outlet tube connected to a pump house was replaced. The pump house on Crex Meadows Wildlife Area controls the flow of water on a 12,000-acre marsh. The tube was replaced due to rust and weakening of the old tube, which threatened the stability of the dike road and functionality of the pumping system. Proper control of water levels through the pump house throughout the year enables optimum breeding and migration stop-over conditions for waterfowl, and allows proper vegetation management of wild rice and other plants that waterfowl depend on. Finishing touches on the project are currently being done to stabilize the road before the impoundment is at full pool. The site can be accessed east of East Refuge Road on Main Dike Road.

Farm Bill biologist program

Revenue from the sale of three Wisconsin wildlife stamps (waterfowl, pheasant, turkey) helped fund six Farm Bill biologists to carry out Farm Bill and other conservation programs in Wisconsin. Coordination of these programs is also funded by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Pheasants Forever. Farm Bill programs, such as the Wetland Reserve Program and Conservation Reserve Program provide assistance to farmers and other private land owners to manage their lands for soil and water conservation and wildlife habitat.

Logo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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